The Implications of the Lack of Translation Services on the Globalization of Biomedical Research;Understanding and Predicting Temperature Distribution of Hospital Sink Tailpiece Heaters

Houghton, Alisa, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Guilford, William, EN-Biomed Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Seabrook, Bryn, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

This portfolio contains two projects, a technical project on creating a computational model of heat distribution to aid in the redesigning of hospital tailpiece heaters and a sociotechnical paper investigating how the lack of accessible translation services impacts the globalization of biomedical research. The idea for the sociotechnical paper was birthed during my experience of finding background information for the technical project. I constantly ran into articles with promising, relevant information in abstracts written in English, but the main passage written in a foreign language. With Google Translate being unreliable in their translation and high prices of using a specialized translation service, I was unable to utilize these articles which delayed my research, inspiring me to wonder how many other researchers have experienced the same situation and its global implications.

The technical project aimed to develop a computational model that can accurately predict heat distribution in and around a hospital tailpiece heater. Prior to this project, there was no way to predict how a heater would heat itself and its system. Instead, one would have to physically construct the prototypes and conduct benchtop experiments to determine the functional capabilities of the device. Using ANSYS and Fusion360, a computational model that elucidates how heat is distributed within and around the heaters even when different components or the configuration of the plumbing system were altered was created. Simulated results were validated against temperature measurements of benchtop models. By creating such a model, heat distributions of various redesigned prototypes of the heater can be simulated in a short amount of time. This provides valuable information on the performance of redesigned heaters, and also saves time, material, and money that are associated with developing and testing prototypes as only redesigns that are simulated to perform up to expectations would be physically reproduced and tested.

The sociotechnical paper uses the framework of technological momentum to investigate firstly why translation services are inaccessible, and then how the lack of inaccessible services impacts the globalization of biomedical research. Research identified complications with human and machine translators, difficulties with translating biomedical terminology, and costs as primary contributors that make translation services inaccessible. Moreover, the analysis found that globalization of biomedical research is inhibited by giving English-based journals and research articles higher rates of exposure, publication, and citations. By elucidating the causes and effects of the lack of accessible translation services for biomedical research, the paper also aims to call to action an expansion of accessible translation, whether in the number of services and supported languages or by lowering costs of existing services, in order to promote globalization of research.

Conducting both research projects at the same time shone light on how privilege and bias exists in the biomedical research community, whether it’s towards the beneficiaries of the products of research or towards researchers, and the importance of addressing and working to break down said privilege and bias. The technical project builds off the work of a previous capstone project that initially designed and built the tailpiece heater, which did not consider the difference in configurations between standard and ADA-compliant sinks. In acknowledging that my project will be used to supplement the design for ADA-compliant sinks, I came to realize that not initially acknowledging the privilege of being able to use standard sinks had a direct impact in costs for materials and time, but more importantly, it directly left patients who can only use ADA-compliant sinks vulnerable to potentially contracting microorganisms such as antibiotic resistant bacteria from sinks. On the other hand, the sociotechnical paper explicitly highlighted the privilege that researchers and journals that operate in English receive. Looking into the disparities that exist made me grasp how much bias exists against research and researchers who do not use English. In a field where global access and collaboration is necessary, hurdles such as language barriers must be taken down in order to facilitate progress.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Plumbing, Computational modeling, Heat distribution, Technological momentum, Translation, Biomedical research

School of Engineering and Applied Science

Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering

Technical Advisor: William Guilford

STS Advisor: Bryn Seabrook

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